After sleeping in a tad and enjoying our room at the Prinsenhof, we headed out to explore Bruges.
We had somewhat of a map of the city on hand, ensuring that we would see the main sights and the best bridges, but in reality, Cole & I are big fans of wandering down tiny streets, turning random corners, and just getting lost in it all. So, the map was really more of a safeguard in the event that we actually did get lost.
We started at the heart, The Markt, where the 12th century belfry looms, and ornate sculptures stand tall and proud.
In true Bruges fashion, it was a bit gloomy that day, but the temperature was perfect and we didn’t mind one bit. If anything, it added to the effect.
Rounding the corner, we were early enough to check out Burg square – minus swarms of tourists (or Pokemon-Go fans). One of the earliest inhabited places in the city, surrounding the square is the Bishops Palace, Town Hall, Civil Registry, and Holy Blood Basilica.
Each covered in detail, and topped with gold statues.
Twisting and turning from there, we wandered down pedestrian streets, and hopped over bridges atop the many canals weaving through the city.
Heading straight to the most photographed spot in Bruges – the side of the Dijver Canal.
Of course, vastly adding to the number of photographs taken of it, within a matter of minutes.
Standing here for quite some time, we admired the interplay between the willow trees and the brick buildings…
And watched as boats glided by through the water.
And, we were even lucky enough to spot a few locals (of the swimming variety).
One thing you will realize is that in Bruges, you must always remember to take a quick look back in the direction you came. More often than not, that different view is equally as remarkable as the first.
We continued through the old centre, stopping for photos at each bridge and admiring as much of the 13-14th century architecture as possible.
Each brick building was unique in its own way, with subtle browns, reds, and oranges filling the streetscape.
We strolled through Minnewater, making sure to visit the Minnewater Bridge – or one of Bruges’ most romantic spots.
Nestled in the trees, and filled with scenic cottage style houses, it lead us to the Lake of Love.
The trees surrounding the lake hid the beauty of Bruges, providing only a glimpse into what was in store if you chose to enter its walls. And, the reflections in the water mirrored the nature around you, creating an oasis from what might otherwise be a busy city.
Walking over the bridge led to a variety of trails, and deep into what felt like the forest. We spent some time in here, enjoying the peace and quiet of this oasis, before agreeing that it was likely time for lunch. Had we brought a picnic, this would have been a lovely place to sit down and take a break.
After walking for a few hours, we headed back up and through the old town, with only one thing on our minds …
Or better yet, Belgian waffles.
After doing a fair bit of research on the topic, we determined that Lizzie’s Waffles was our best bet. Loved by locals and tourists alike, it was just outside the main square, and featured all the toppings your heart could desire.
In a sweet mood, we selected fresh strawberries, maple syrup, ice cream, and a thick, pure chocolate sauce.
We released the sauces and watched pools of chocolate and syrup form, before slicing into our waffles, and dunking them into ice cream.
The insides were soft and fluffy, with the perfect amount of crunch on the outer edges. And, with each bite, the decadent combinations we had selected filled us up more and more. It was a struggle, but in the end we ate all but one bite.
While they were a bit pricey, I would highly recommend a visit. There is a cost to share – so you might as well get your own and dig in. There is even sweet and savoury options, depending on your mood that day.
Oh, and get whatever lemonade creation they have on special! Perfectly refreshing for washing down a meal of carbs and sugar.
After that, we were feeling quite plump, but we couldn’t let that slow us down. We had a lot of research, and further taste testing to accomplish in our weekend visit.
I was on a mission to determine the best chocolates in the city, so we hurriedly ran into a few shops and picked out a selection… Reserving ourselves to actually do the taste testing at a later date.
We made the mandatory stop at Dumon, admiring the shelves and shelves of confectionery, waffles, and cookies.
Unfortunately we weren’t provided with a taste-test, so we blindly selected the box of pralines and truffles. After testing a few, I was feeling so-so about it, so we returned to the Simon Stevinplein location (which was exceptionally rude in service), and picked out a few caramels, an orange slice, and a graham cracker topped with marshmallow and coated in chocolate. Definitely much better, the marshmellow-smore was one of my absolute favourites – and a high recommendation. As for the praline and truffle selections, I would pass.
Then, we stopped in at B by B – the haute couture of Belgian chocolates. Here, the modern store was filled with rows of bar-like creations, with both classic and creative fillings. We were provided a few to test, before ultimately purchasing two boxes – classics and the chef’s favourites.
My favourites? Dark chocolate/Babelutte/Sea Salt, Milk Chocolate/Babelutte/Coffee, and White Chocolte/Raspberry/Roses. The chocolate coatings were silky, and the mixture of flavours played perfectly off each other with each bite.
And finally, we rounded out our visit with a quick pop into the Chocolate Line – tradition defying chocolates, with some of the best flavour combinations of all. Easily the best of the three, and what I would deem a mandatory stop if you’re in the area.
We selected one of the deluxe boxes – which was a combination of classic chocolates as well as a few more interesting ones.
Although I liked almost all of them, my favourites were: Skull (red fruit jelly with violet flowers and hazelnut praline), Apple (caramel with apple balsamic vinegar and a praline with a granny smith), Paola (gdianduja with a crown of caramelized hazlenuts), Framboise (ganache with pure raspberry juice), and Piemonte (hazelnut). There was also a vanilla buttercream one that I had, that exposed this sugary (and delicious) liquid with each bite, however, it doesn’t seem to be on the website.
While not my personal favourite, Havana (ganache perfumed with havana leaves) is one you might want to try, even if only for the novelty of it.
Of course, during our search we did spot a few beautiful corners (which is actually quite easy in Bruges), making our way to the outskirts of the old town and back.
As we weaved in and out of the streets, we stopped every so often to admire the row houses lining the lush canals, and the picturesque scenery of it all.
Away from the heart of the action, the streets were much more quiet, giving you a glimpse into authentic Bruges life and steering you away from the bouts of tourists.
And at the end of it all, stands a remaining guard post, from the city wall. Which today, you can easily pass through as many times as your heart desires.
After that, it was time to check into our second hotel, but I’ll give you more details on that tomorrow.